An Indo-Pacific damselfish (Neopomacentrus cyanomos) in the Gulf of Mexico: origin and mode of introduction
The Indo-West Pacific (IWP) coral-reef damselfish Neopomacentrus cyanomos is well established across the south-west Gulf of Mexico (SwGoMx). Comparisons of mtDNA sequences of the SwGoMx population with those from conspecifics from 16 sites scattered across its native geographic range show that the SwGoMx population is derived from two of four native lineages: one from the north-west Pacific Ocean, the other from the northern Indian Ocean. Three hypotheses address how this species was introduced to the SwGoMX: (1) aquarium release; (2) borne by cargo-ship; and (3) carried by offshore petroleum platform (petro-platform). The first is unlikely because this species rarely features in the aquarium trade, and “N. cyanomos” traded to the USA from the sole IWP source we are aware of are a misidentified congener, N. taeniurus. The second hypothesis is unlikely because shipping has not been associated with the introduction of alien damselfishes, there is little international shipping between the IWP and the SwGoMx, and voyages between those areas would be lengthy and along environmentally unfavorable routes. Various lines of evidence support the third hypothesis: (i) bio-fouled petro-platforms represent artificial reefs that can sustain large and diverse populations of tropical reef-fishes, including N. cyanomos in the SwGoMx; (ii) relocation of such platforms has been implicated in trans-oceanic introductions leading to establishment of non-native populations of such fishes; and (iii) genetic characteristics of the SwGoMx population indicate that it was established by a large and diverse group of founders drawn from the IWP regions where many petro-platforms currently in the SwGoMx and other Atlantic offshore oilfields originated.